Can’t Decide Between Pie and Cake? It’s Time for Piecaken!

Planning the holiday dessert lineup is always the best part of entertaining. Christmas Cookies and Italian Strufoli (sweet honey balls with non pareils and candied fruit if you are unfamiliar to this tradition)? Check. 20+ varieties of Grandma’s favorite cookie recipes? Check. Pies and cakes? Not so fast. Think piecaken. It’s a perfect dessert if you cannot choose between a slice of moist cake with melt in your mouth frosting or a traditional holiday pie.

Piecakens have been around for several years now. They have a keen sense of surfacing in food magazines, blogs and bakeries every Thanksgiving and Christmas but I bake them for Valentines Day as well.

Tradition rules with holiday pies. If you don’t have the time to bake one, go out and buy a pie. Pumpkin, Apple, Pecan or Sweet Potato to name a few. Cakes however, are a matter of choice whether they are double dark fudge, cinnamon spice, buttery bourbon, rich red velvet or any other flavor that floats your boat. Bake them together by placing a baked pie inside a cake with complementary flavors and there you have it. The dessert conversation piece. Your Piecaken.

I first learned about them a few years ago when I read about Zac Young, a talented out of the box young culinary chef who playfully and creatively crafted these little culinary wonders during the Thanksgiving holiday. My first reaction was ‘is this a good thing?’ so I had to try making one myself. I scoured the internet for derivatives of the original which called for layering pies and cakes, one on top of the other with frosting in between. If that was not unusual enough, I was intrigued with other bakers who opted to actually bake a pie inside a cake.

So off I drove to my local grocery store in search of pies that would complement my cakes. The checkout employee must have thought I was on a pre-Thanksgiving sugar rush with my purchase of nine pies in different flavors and sizes. I think that I could have told her that I was getting ready to build up my strength for black Friday shopping and she would have believed me more than my description of a piecaken. Her response was classic. She laughed and said “Are you sure this will taste good?”   I told her that I would let her know and I am happy to report that they turned out great.

 

Here is the process:

Spray coat the baking pan which needs to be at least 2” (Preferably 3 inches) tall. Pour 2/3 of your cake batter in the pan. Take the pie out of the tin. OK. There is a note on this. You CAN also bake a pie but in the interest of time, I opted like so many others to buy a ready baked pie. Gently drop the pie into the center of the cake pan so as not to sink the pie. Pour the remaining batter over the pie in the cake pan. Bake for 350 degrees for the following size pans:

6 inch pans with a small mini pie –   35 minutes

9 inch pan with an 8 inch pie –   55 minutes

 

Test for doneness remembering that this is a very moist cake with a pie inside.

Let the piecaken cool. I personally like to refrigerate the piecaken for at least 1 – 2 hours.

Frost the single piecaken and decorate or for a more traditional piecaken which kind of resembles mismatch day at school when you were a kid, layer 3 piecakens using cream cheese frosting between each layer.

Decorate, chill, serve and enjoy the reactions of your family and friends.

This may never exceed traditional pumpkin pie or spice cake but it will have guests buzzing in the weeks ahead.

Happy Holidays everyone and Happy Piecaken!

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Dancing with Sugarplums

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“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads…”

How often have we read The Night Before Christmas and really thought about Sugarplums? A few years ago, I decided to make some and I include a small tray on dessert tables during the holidays ever since.

Try your hand at preparing, serving and gifting sugarplums this holiday season. They are so easy that you will wonder why you have not made them sooner.  You can make these nostalgic sweets in less than 20 minutes.

A Note to the Healthy Fooderati out there.  Add some shredded coconut, reduce the jam a small bit and think of Sugarplums as a natural holiday energy bar. Whatever you envision in your sugarplum recipe, they are a great addition to your holiday dessert table.

 Ingredients for Sugarplums

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates and/or figs
  • 1 cup chopped nuts*
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or craisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped prunes
  • 4 tbsp fruit jam
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Optional Confectioners’ Sugar for dusting
  • Optional Shredded Coconut 

* Traditional sugarplum recipes call for ½ cup walnuts, ¼ cup hazelnuts and ¼ cup pecans. I love changing it up with substituting ½ cup pistachio nuts for the walnuts, keeping the hazelnuts and pecans.

Mix Fruit and Nuts   Start by placing the chopped dates/figs, chopped nuts (walnuts or pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans) cranberries or craisins and prunes in the bowl of a food processor. If you don’t have a processor you can do it by hand and just chop everything together until it’s in very small pieces and starts sticking together.

Once all of your fruits and nuts are in the work bowl, pulse the processor several times until everything is in small pieces and is well-mixed.

Add Ingredients and Mix into a Ball   Now add the jam, orange zest, cinnamon and cloves. Give it several long pulses until the mixture begins to come together in a ball.

Christmas Trivia Moment:  Sugarplums get their name from the prunes, or dried plums, in the recipe.

Check the Consistency. Stop and check it once it starts to come together. When you press it between your fingers it should hold itself in a ball, but you want to retain some texture and be able to see individual pieces of fruit and nuts. Don’t blend it so much that it turns into a sticky paste!

Roll Candy through Sugar   To finish your sugarplums, place the granulated sugar in a bowl. Roll the candy into small balls, and roll them in the granulated sugar. To make it a bit healthier, you could roll them in chopped nuts or coconut instead.

How to Serve and Store Sugarplums   To keep things neat, serve them in paper candy cups. An optional touch is to sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on top right before serving. These sugarplums last for weeks if you keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 This is an EASY Recipe. Let’s rate this 1 Fork. Enjoy!